From Bio Journal - September 2002
First field trials for GM animal applied for
The Institute for Chemical and Blood Serum Treatment Research has developed a GM live-virus vaccine that is effective against both Marek's disease and Newcastle disease, both diseases being responsible for serious problems in chicken, and has applied to MAFF for permission to carry out field trials using the vaccine on chickens. The live-virus vaccine was made by introducing a Newcastle disease gene into a detoxified Marek's disease virus. If the experiment is approved, it will be the first field test carried out on animals in Japan. (Nikkei Biotech, 1 July 2002)
320,000 signatures demand R&D halt of GM rice
On July 8, 2002, over 320,000 signatures demanding a halt to the R&D of GM rice were presented to the governor of Aichi Prefecture and the head of the Aichi-ken Agricultural Research Center. The Research Center is involved in the development of a herbicide tolerant japonica rice "Matsuribare" in collaboration with Monsanto (see Bio Journal Sep 2001). Two days earlier, a Stop! GMO Rice National Assembly was held in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, and people from all over Japan had brought the signed petitions with them for this occasion. The officials at the government of Aichi and at the Research Center who received the signatures took due notice of their contents, but stated that "research that has already been started cannot be halted". However, when about 100 participants visited to the Research Center on July 5, it became clear that some researchers had expressed regret over the collaboration with Monsanto.
Decision deferred again on Shinshu Univ. human ES cell plan
On July 24, the 9th meeting of the specialist committee on research into embryos and human ES cells (a consultative body of MEXT) took place, and Shinshu University's plan for the use of human ES cells, the approval decision for which had been deferred at the previous committee meeting, was again discussed. However, several of the committee members pointed out that the university ethics committee had carried out its deliberations without full understanding of the spirit of the guidelines (on the use of human ES cells), and once again decided to defer approval. In the end, it was decided to dispatch several members of the committee to Shinshu University for an exchange of opinions before making a final decision on the matter.
MHLW interim report on policy on science and technology
On July 25, the 7th meeting of the specialist committee on policy in science and technology (a consultative body of MHLW) took place, and the interim report pointing out the future direction of science and technology policy in MHLW was largely completed. The report puts emphasis on the promotion of new drug discovery through genome information, tailor-made pharmacotherapy, regenerative medicine, gene therapy, and so on. There is a section entitled, "Ensuring the Safety of Food, Chemical Substances, Pharmaceuticals, and Medical and Welfare Equipment and so on," but there is only very scant mention of e BSE and GMO problems.
Food labelling: Report to include both integration and status quo
On July 30, 2002, the 5th session of the round-table meeting on the Food Labelling System (see Bio Journal Aug 2002) was held and its interim report was released. Initially, the aim of this round-table meeting was expected to be an integration of MHLW's Food Sanitation Law for public health and MAFF's JAS Law for informing consumers (see JAS labelling law)). However, the report mentioned both approaches, integration of the two laws and maintaining the status quo and allowing the ministries to seek policy consistency through consultation and coordination on a case-by-case basis.